Movie Review – Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is a fitting resolution to a tiresome and ultimately forgettable franchise.

1/2
Josip Knezevic

There’s no point holding back: I abhorred the Maze Runner: The Death Cure from the moment it started. Not even the luscious Vmax furniture or the ample amounts of legroom were able to make the experience enjoyable. I was expecting – or at least hoping – for a film that didn’t repeat everything we’ve already seen in the previous films… how very wrong I was.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure returns to its apocalyptic world that’s overrun with the damned and infected or ‘cranks’. Our heroes Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) are continuing their endless journey to bring down the powerful World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department, appropriately abbreviated as WCKD. Time is running out for Thomas to find a way to save his friends as infections spread and threaten everyone. Will he make it in time? Who will die in the process? Is there any chance I’m going to care?

It’s disheartening to see a studio waste a budget of more than $80 million on a film filled with plot holes and conveniences. There’s so many films out there that have been made for far less and have managed to produce something so much better, but alas, I digress.

The biggest problem with the third and final Maze Runner is its incredibly long run time; at 2 hours and 22 minutes, it’s arduous viewing. Why director Wes Ball did not cut scenes that easily could have been omitted without impacting the overall narrative is baffling to me. The opening scenes, for starters, hold no implications on the rest of the story, and merely draw out the film for the sake of drawing it out. Meanwhile, several developments in the final act drag out the climax to frustrating lengths.

Unless you’re a fan of the franchise and somehow enjoyed the other instalments, I cannot recommend you go and see this film.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is available in Australian cinemas from January 25 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

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Movie Review – The Shape of Water

After forays into blockbuster anime (Pacific Rim) and gothic horror (Crimson Peak), Guillermo del Toro returns to his roots for a genre-bending monster mash.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

The Shape of Water sees Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro deliver a dark fantasy fairytale, a suspenseful conspiracy thriller, a fish-out-of-water comedy (literally) and an enchanting love story all wrapped up in one beautiful package. It’s Amelie meets Creature From The Black Lagoon meets The Little Mermaid, and it’s easily del Toro’s best English language film to date.

Set in Baltimore during the Cold War, The Shape of Water centres around Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute janitor, and her relationship with a mysterious amphibian creature (Doug Jones) being held in the secret military research facility where she works. Through their limited ability to communicate, the odd couple strike up an unlikely romance that’s bound by their shared feeling of loneliness and incompleteness.

However, their secret romance soon hits a snag when Michael Shannon’s ruthless military colonel plans to destroy the creature, and so the pair must devise an escape plan with the help of Elisa’s neighbour (Richard Jenkins) and co-worker (Octavia Spencer).

Meticulous in its craftsmanship, every frame, facet and fabric in The Shape of Water is dripping with sumptuous detail, from the intricate sets and rich colours, to the grotesque design of the creature himself, complete with gills, frills, fangs and googly eyes that swivel.

It’s a masterful period creature feature that is overflowing with affection for its setting, its influences and its themes. Del Toro’s screenplay, which was co-written by Vanessa Taylor, plumbs the depths of prejudice, politics and science, as well as sexuality. The cherry on top is Alexandre Desplat’s dreamy and bewitching score, which sounds as though you’re sipping on a latte in an underwater Parisian café.

Hawkins delivers a career-best performance as Elisa, a timid spinster who lives above a movie theatre. Whether she’s dancing with her mop and bucket or staging a dramatic breakout, Hawkins brings compassion and ferocity in equal measure. Similarly, Jones brings majestic physicality as the creature, buried underneath layers of prosthetics but still emoting like the best of them.

The Shape of Water is currently being showered with awards, and rightly so; in addition to being visually stunning, it’s a delicate and absorbing fable that is a testament to the power of love and compassion. Populated with captivating performances and delicious design, it’s bound to go over swimmingly with fans of del Toro and genre work alike.

The Shape of Water is available in Australian cinemas from January 18 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Three HOF writers clash lightsabers over the newest entry in the Star Wars franchise, but what’s the final verdict? Read on to find out!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

The continuing adventures of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and co, Star Wars: The Last Jedi sees director Rian Johnson (Looper) take hold of the reins and steer the series into stranger, bolder territory than ever before. Whilst Rey is furthering her training under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Finn joins forces with Poe and new character Rose (Kelly-Marie Tran) in a desperate race against time to save the Resistance from certain defeat.

Channelling influences that range from Akira Kurosawa to manga and anime, Johnson subverts expectation at every turn in The Last Jedi, undercutting theory and speculation to challenge audiences. Undoubtedly the strongest aspect of his film is the evolving dynamic between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver); emotional, unexpected and at times surreal, Johnson reshapes our understanding of the universe to deepen the connection between his two leads. Hamill also rises to the occasion, delivering his best ever performance as Luke Skywalker. Poe and General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) are also afforded a satisfying and touching storyline that farewells the latter with power and grace.

Where The Force Awakens was expected, The Last Jedi is daring; not everything sticks (some of the humour falls flat and Boyega’s arc is rushed and surprisingly pointless), but on the whole this is a gargantuan effort that thrills and shocks in equal measure.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic

While others might think it daring and bold, it seems to me that Disney has tried to please as many people as possible with this latest entry. Much like the oversaturated burst of nostalgia that was Star Wars: The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi has fallen prey to following conventional tropes, making it a forgettable addition to the series – in my opinion.

I hold Star Wars in such high regard because, well – it’s Star Wars. The Last Jedi’s stock-standard, crowd-pleasing formula is quite simply an insult to the entire franchise. The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the best of the original trilogy because it’s shocking and fierce, with giant discoveries, twists and betrayals. The Last Jedi has none of that, and it’s a shame because Johnson has proven he has the ability to do all those things. It’s tough to explain without revealing spoilers, but essentially, if you’ve seen the original trilogy, you’ll know what’s going to happen here.

Don’t get me wrong, if same old is what you want, you’ll enjoy The Last Jedi, but if you’re wanting more, I’d suggest you lower your expectations.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Ultimately, the necessity of these new Star Wars films is called into question. I enjoyed The Force Awakens. Whether it regurgitated the original trilogy didn’t matter to me, and it doesn’t matter to me now. The Force Awakens offered up new and exciting heroes, and comforted the franchise with tangible practical effects. It looked and felt like Star Wars. The Last Jedi, however, is a little shaky in that department.

Jokes and gags are delivered out of character. Little things like dusting off a shoulder to prove invincibility seems like a gesture that belongs in All Eyez on Me instead of the Star Wars universe. Tiny alien birds try too hard to be cute. And Johnson makes the fatal flaw of relying on computer graphics to make his movie happen; scenes on an extravagant casino island have the look and feel of the Prequels – never a good sign.

Despite these issues, I believe The Last Jedi is still an utterly worthy addition to the saga. I’m just praying Episode IX brings us to a place we’ve truly never been. All us patient Star Wars fans deserve at least that much.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available in Australian cinemas from December 14

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Movie Review – Coco

Pixar’s Coco may not have the majesty of some of its greats, but it still gets the job done with delightful aplomb.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

I suspect the writers of Coco, Disney/Pixar’s newest family film, started their screenplay with the end. They had the perfect idea for an emotional clincher and simply needed to fill in the first two acts to qualify as a feature. The result is a charming little story about family that’s half magical wonder, half silly adventure, and the two don’t always mesh.

Take the premise, for example. Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is an adorable little boy in Mexico who is cursed to love music in a family that has primed him to become a shoemaker, kinda like Merida wanting to be a warrior instead of a betrothed sovereign, or Moana wanting to be an explorer instead of a tribeswoman. Disney enjoys its formulas.

During the Day of the Dead festivities, Miguel is whimsically transported to the realm of the deceased, which, according to Coco, looks like floating favelas, only more colourful, and operates in a manner not unlike the afterlife in Beetlejuice (1988). We learn that our ancestors don’t really die; they move on to this floating world and return to the land of the living as skeletal spectres every year to commune and retrieve our offerings. Doesn’t this seem like the ideal platform on which to develop a touching story about our past relatives coming to see us, lamenting death and missed opportunities, maybe asking for forgiveness or marvelling at how well their descendants turned out? No such luck. Coco chooses the lighter approach, and cobbles together a ragtag coming-of-age adventure in which Miguel has to dash through the afterlife to find his musical idol and get him to send him back to our dimension before he, too, turns into a quivering mass of bones.

Miguel doesn’t seem astonished to meet his forebears any more than his forebears seem pleased to meet their great-great-great-grandson. I can only imagine the amount of questions I’d have for my great-grandma if I got to meet her sentient skeleton. Coco doesn’t pause long enough for moments like this. It has a winner of a crescendo to get to and wastes little time getting there.

I will not bother you with the details of the plot and what this crescendo actually involves. Let’s just say Pixar, whether delivering a masterpiece or humdrum mediocrity, always manages to turn a standard idea into a champion. Adventure aside, I liked Miguel. He’s plucky and cute, and Gonzalez voices him with great urgency. The afterlife, for all its clamour, turns what would have been a boring re-tread of bygone plots into a world of wonder and excitement. It is visually alive, with intricate details decorating every corner of the frame. I liked the fact that the core story doesn’t really hinge on Miguel, and that Coco manages to dispatch its message cleanly and powerfully. It hit me right in the heart, even if I saw the shot coming a mile away.

I only wish the writers, Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, had been bolder, and possibly a bit smarter. I cannot fault the cast or the film’s design, but had the writers ventured deeper into the possibilities of contacting the dead Coco might have been in the league of Inside Out. As it is, it’s more on the same level as Big Hero 6, which, all things considered, is still mighty fine company.

Coco is available in Australian cinemas from Boxing Day 

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Movie Review – Flatliners

No pulse detected on this 90s sci-fi thriller remake.

⭐ ⭐ ½     
Elle Cahill 

Another day, another remake; Flatliners sees Joel Schumacher‘s largely forgotten 1990 film of the same name return to cinemas, begging the question why any studio would feel the need to revive this film. Presumably, Sony hoped today’s audiences would be more receptive to the daring concept, but the original’s failings were never conceptual. Where both films fall down is in execution.

Medical student Courtney (Ellen Page) leads an experiment to visit the afterlife that involves stopping the heart of a subject then reviving them before they hit the four-minute mark. Following the success of her first experiment, each of her fellow students go on to experience the afterlife, only to learn death is something that shouldn’t be meddled with…

On paper, it’s got all the makings for a hit. In the director’s chair is Niels Arden Oplev; most well-known for the Swedish Millennium trilogy (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), he’s proven his abilities to handle sensitive themes before. His cast, much like the original, is filled with “hot right now” stars including Page (Inception), Diego Luna (Rogue One) and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) who have all dared to push the realms of our existence before.

It’s got everything going for it, but it just doesn’t connect. Maybe it’s the overuse of archetypal characters; there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, and the cast struggle to get any sort of emotional weight out of the limited material on offer. Or it could be that the afterlife purgatory theme throughout is awfully contrived, with each character having to face some sort of moral dilemma that’s filled with plot holes and inconsistencies.

Page isn’t her usual sassy, witty self that we’ve come to know and love, and her supporting cast don’t offer much either. James Norton‘s turn as womanising Jamie is overplayed as is Kiersey Clemons as the highly-strung Sophia in constant contact with her overbearing mother.

For a film marketing itself as a thriller, all it really offers is some jump scares and cheap thrills. My only hope is that when they remake this in another 17 years’ time, they’ll learn from the two previous films and actually make something of this premise.

Flatliners is available in Australian cinemas from September 28

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is a complex beast of a movie. Gargantuan in many ways, both good and bad, it’s a film that we’ll be wrestling with for years to come.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp 

Picture a white landscape, tiled with buildings that are only distinguishable by the lines between them. Lights swirl beneath the surface – slowly shifting signs of consciousness – as the camera flies along towards an unknown destination. Eventually, it reaches a small farm, where Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) emerges from a tent to attend to a boiling pot of soup. LAPD blade runner, K (Ryan Gosling), is already waiting for him.

These images are how director Denis Villeneuve stakes his claim to one of science fiction’s most beloved properties: by moving outside of its city and into a whole new behemoth of a universe. Sure, LA is still there, and it’s still perpetually raining, but it’s no longer the main feature. We’re treated instead to an endless buffet of visual delights from outside its borders. A wasteland of orange cloud, fields of trash that orphans scrounge shelter from, the cold white of long-dead farmland, the list goes on. Visuals-wise, there isn’t a damn second of this film that isn’t meticulously crafted. That’d be impressive for a normal blockbuster, but then you notice the run-time, and it hits home what an achievement Blade Runner 2049 is. Villeneuve has blown his competition out of the water, and for that alone he deserves commendation.

He also deserves commendation for expertly walking the line between old and new. It’s not just that he’s expanded the world, it’s that he’s managed to do that while staying true to the original’s iconic aesthetic, and also appropriately updating it. Not only is the colour palette wider, but modern VFX techniques are used alongside old ones to stunning effect. At times it feels more like a homage than an actual sequel, and that’s absolutely a good thing. 2049 is the kind of film that Nicholas Winding-Refn would make if you drowned him in money, and who doesn’t want that?

Even the politics get a good once-over, with climate change and drone warfare now sub-textual factors. It’s not subtle, I’ll give you that, but it helps the film feel appropriately contemporary. Villeneuve has transposed our modern worries onto a familiar template and given it a fresh coat of paint.

That fresh coat can feel jarring at first, though. Lighting enthusiasts will pick the problem up instantly – cinematographer Roger Deakins has lit everything far too well for a supposed noir film. A bright, clean office? That’s not noir, and it’s certainly not Blade Runner, what the hell were they thinking? Have faith, my friends, the second half of the film contains all of the heavenly contrasts you could ask for. One character even jokes about preferring the lights to be brighter, so at least you know Villeneuve is in on it. Again, not subtle, but it’s something.

It’s also undeniable that 2049 is a much more bombastic film than its predecessor. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch‘s score is probably the worst culprit, but he’s only matching the rest of the film’s various explosions and fist-fights. Where the original went small, 2049 goes big. You can partially excuse this enlargement with the fact that 30 years have passed since the events of the first film, so it’s natural for things to have escalated in some ways. But still, it’s hard not to feel a bit weirded out by it. 2049 is Blade Runner reimagined as a true Hollywood blockbuster, and it’s hard not to miss the intimacy of the original.

Blade Runner 2049 is the kind of film you can write entire theses about; it’s that big. Unfortunately, that enormity is also a double-edged sword, and will probably divide fans for years to come. One viewing just doesn’t feel adequate to understand its complexities; there’s too much information demanding to be absorbed. I’m sure that opinions to it will shift over time, as they did with the original. For now, be assured that it is well worth your time and consideration. You’ll walk out desperate for a second viewing, and that’s a remarkable feat for a three-hour film. It’s a miracle, really, but Villeneuve has delivered the best film we could have hoped for.

Blade Runner 2049 is available in Australian cinemas from October 5 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Classic Review – Blade Runner 1982

Visually breathtaking, even 35 years later, Blade Runner rightly remains a science fiction classic.

Michael Philp 

The year is 2019, and smokestacks spout fire above Los Angeles. Below, the streets are bursting with life. Neon stalls and crowded markets suffer through rain and smog, flying cars purge themselves in filthy alleyways, and the all-seeing eye of an advertising blimp glides between the buildings. Towering above it all is the Tyrell Corporation’s ziggurat – a monument to the god of this new world, Dr Eldon Tyrell, the creator of more-human-than-human replicants.

These are the first images of Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, Blade Runner, and they are stunning. Better yet, over the next two hours, you get to witness imagery even more sumptuous and intriguing, while connecting with some of the richest characters in science fiction. We will follow grizzled Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), as he tracks down and “retires” four escaped replicants – banned bioengineered androids. We will sympathise with those replicants and their search for life beyond their creator’s intentions. And ultimately, we will sympathise with Deckard as he struggles with a brutal system that cares little for the lives within it.

Visually speaking, Scott never stops pushing his film. From those first flaming stacks to Roy Batty’s (Rutger Hauer) final monologue, near every frame of the movie is a feast for the eyes. The contrasted lighting helps immensely in this, setting a noirish mood that reflects the film’s oppressively dark and dirty world. An early bathroom scene particularly stands out, with a fluorescent tube gorgeously backlighting Deckard. Compare that shot to any number in Drive, and it’s clear that film-makers are still openly copying Blade Runner 35 years later – it’s just that cool.

Aside from the lighting, Scott is constantly filling the frame with detail and symbolism. Look out for numerous instances of eye imagery – a visual metaphor that suggests surveillance, humanity, and knowledge. Or perhaps you’d prefer something more subtle, like the fact that they modelled Eldon Tyrell’s bedroom on the Pope’s – something that immediately highlights the film’s religious themes. These little details all build upon one another, creating a rich tapestry of meaning. All of a sudden, Tyrell’s pet owl – also a bioengineered creation – becomes not only a symbol of his wealth, but also his knowledge and divine aspirations. These are the details that make Blade Runner such a beloved film. Repeat viewings are virtually mandatory for a film with this much depth.

The visuals would be empty though without talented actors backing them up, which is why it’s such a blessing that Blade Runner has one of the best performances of the 80’s in Hauer’s Batty. Larger than life, Batty is a magnificently complex creature. Deeply aware of his looming mortality and disposableness, Batty initially attempts to bargain with his creator, before finally rising above a system that considers him worthless. His bemused resignation at the end – a slight smile as he reminisces about the wonders he has seen – is one of the film’s crowning achievements, humanising him to an incredible degree. The life behind Hauer’s performance is awe-inspiring, particularly when taking into account the fact that Batty has had to fight for its recognition. The world sees him as nothing more than an off-world slave, making it even more powerful to watch Batty shed himself of those chains.

Blade Runner is a behemoth of science fiction, and rightly so. It’s an incredibly rich film that takes science fiction concepts dating back to the original Frankenstein and depicts them with nuance and humanity. What right does anyone have to dictate who is and is not human? What right do we have to create life and then dictate its purpose? These questions are at the core of Blade Runner and are served well by some of the best visuals of Ridley Scott’s career. As we approach the release date of Blade Runner 2049, it’s amazing that the original film can still hold its weight. Here’s to hoping that its moments won’t all be lost in time.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

Movie Review – The Dark Tower

Nikolaj Arcel’s rehash of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is a load of mishandled hogwash.


Rhys Graeme-Drury

From The Shining and Carrie to The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King’s library of novels and stories has served as the basis for a whole range of excellent cinema over the years. Until now, his self-ascribed magnum opus, The Dark Tower series – a sprawling eight-book saga that melds dark fantasy, science fiction and Western into one potent melting pot – has gone unadapted, largely because it is so large in scope and deep in lore.

The solution concocted by its quartet of screenwriters and director Nikolaj Arcel is to strip the series back to its basics. You’ve got a gunslinger named Roland (Idris Elba), the last in a long line of Arthurian guardians defending the titular tower, and a magical sorcerer called Walter (Matthew McConaughey), who seeks to destroy the tower and rule over the resultant chaos with Machiavellian glee. Tying them together is a young boy from Earth called Jake (Tom Taylor), who sees visions of the tower crumbling and sets out to help Roland on his quest.

Rather than formulating a straightforward adaptation of the first book, Arcel’s film acts more as a remix of the entire series as it borrows elements and ideas before mixing them together into a trim 90-minute film. And while this approach could work in theory, the reality is that Sony has somehow taken one of the most beloved fantasy book series’ of all time and cobbled together a boring, bland and generic action-adventure film that belongs at the bottom of the bargain bin.

Given its rich pedigree, The Dark Tower is bafflingly immaterial; the world, its characters and their conflicts aren’t explained or explored even in the slightest. We’re told that Jake is the key to protecting the tower, but not why. We’re told Walter wants to destroy the tower, but not why. We’re told Roland is impervious to Walter’s magic, but not why. The script is so busy trying to compress King’s ideas into the trim runtime that is doesn’t stop to answer silly questions like why, how, who and what the actual fuck is going on. It’s akin to pressing all seven Harry Potter novels into one film where the only characters are Harry, Dumbledore and Voldemort.

I would say The Dark Tower is so bad it belongs on TV, but in an era where shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld and Outlander consistently showcase how quality fantasy can be done on the small screen, that analogy simply doesn’t hold up. All told, The Dark Tower is banal and derivative to a degree scarcely believable; maybe it would have worked as an HBO or Starz series, but in its current form it’s just an inert glob of nothing that rates up there with the worst of the year.

The Dark Tower is available in Australian cinemas from August 17 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Movie Review – 3D Terminator 2: Judgement Day

3D? Who cares?! A cinema packed full of fans to share the experience of Terminator 2: Judgement Day on the big screen is the real treat here.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is not only one of the greatest sci-fi films of the 90s; it’s also one of the most successful examples of a sequel managing to move a story forward, while also offering us something slightly different to what came before it. Mixed with a kickass female lead, 90s nostalgia and visual effects that were ground-breaking in its day, it’s very easy to still appreciate it over a quarter of a century later… so much so, that it’s now coming to cinema near you, but this time in 3D.

Picking up 10 years on from the first film, a cyborg from the future (Arnold Schwarzenegger) travels back in time again, but instead of killing Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the cyborg’s mission is to protect her son to ensure that Earth has a chance in the impending apocalypse.

The real question here is: does 3D take the film to another level? In my opinion, no. Does it make the experience of seeing the film on the big screen any less worthwhile? Hell no! Given that it was originally released in 1991, many (myself included) have never had the opportunity to watch the film in a cinematic environment. At the 3D preview screening, excitement rippled throughout the audience, with plenty of light-hearted heckling toward some of the more outdated components –  such as when John Connor (Edward Furlong) transforms into a 30-year-old man with a mullet during the motorcycle chase scene.

Undeniably, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a great film, and regardless of the impact that the 3D component did or didn’t have on the film, I would definitely recommend seeing it, just to be immersed in a crowd of like-minded people who equally love this classic.

3D Terminator 2: Judgement Day is available in Australian cinemas from August 24 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal Australia

 

 

Movie Review – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Luc Besson proves that kinetic visuals and a vivid imagination are no substitute for a watertight script and a cast with charisma.

⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

An intergalactic metropolis called Alpha is under threat from a dark and mysterious force, so two special operatives ­– Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) – are dispatched to root out the evil and safeguard the thousands of alien species which call the station home.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is something of a pet project for French filmmaker Luc Besson; having grown up reading Pierre Christin’s original comics and with his previous work on films such as The Fifth Element in turn drawing heavily from said comics, one could say this adaptation is the culmination of an entire career of filmmaking.

It is undoubtedly an audacious undertaking; Valerian is both the most expensive French film ever financed and one of the most ambitious sci-fi films this side of James Cameron’s Avatar, with over 2,700 visual effects shots finding their way into the final product. However, all this flashiness can only stretch so far because Valerian is unfortunately a narrative dud that fails to engage on every level beneath the surface.

Its biggest flaw is unquestionably the script; peppered with bursts of playful banter, you get the sense that Besson is aiming for a hip and sexy Han and Leia vibe from his two youthful leads. Ultimately, this doesn’t transpire as DeHaan and Delevingne share about as much chemistry as a pair of discarded planks of wood. Frigid, lacking in spark and afforded only a handful of generic action one-liners to work with, I’m scratching my head to think of another film in recent memory that was woefully miscast as Valerian.

Don’t get me wrong, DeHaan has done good work in the past, but when I think of a roughish special forces ladies man in space, he wouldn’t even rate in my top 20 casting choices. The same can be said of Delevingne, who as usual lets her (admittedly on fleek) eyebrows do 80% of the work. The worst part is, every line is delivered in the same monotone and morose manner; one can only assume that every note given on set was something along the lines of “emote less” or “again, but this time try to look more bored”.

Alas, Valerian is just one of those perplexing films that has an enormous amount of imagination but no cohesive vision (see also: Jupiter Ascending). It feels like the entire plot was just pulled from a hat filled with random words – at one point, Laureline has to pay a pirate to steal a psychic jellyfish from the blowhole of a giant whale so she can wear it like a hat and see through time and space.

There are flashes of brilliance – an early interdimensional heist sequence is fun and Ethan Hawke plays a neon-soaked brigand who owns a nightclub that plays the Bee Gees even though it’s 1,000 years in the future – but all its wins are counteracted by a dozen equally notable failings.

Essentially you can count the good stuff in Valerian on one hand and one of them is a little pearl-pooping Pokemon that spends 90% of the film in Delevingne’s fanny pack. Definitely one to avoid, even for sci-fi diehards.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is available in Australian cinemas from August 10 

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne